Buddhism in Estonia

At the end of the 1980s, however, the Estonian Buddhist Union re-started its activity. Out of its work emerged two Buddhist congregations which are active today — the Estonian Buddhist Congregation ‘The Centre of Drikung Kagyu Shri Ratna’ (founded in 1993) and the Nyingma Estonian Congregation of the Tibetan Buddhism (1997). Besides these two congregations there are also the Western Buddhist Brotherhood’s Friends local department and the ‘Dharma Publishers’ who publish Buddhist literature.

Interest in Buddhist philosophy and religion increased markedly in the 1970s. In the 1980s a group was established which practised Buddhism as a religion and whose members called themselves the Estonian Buddhist Brotherhood. In addition to translating Buddhist literature, the members of the Brotherhood erected four stupas in Western-Estonia. Activity of the Buddhist Brotherhood was terminated in 1988 due to Soviet repression.

Buddhism arrived in Estonia in the beginning of the 20th century with the Buddhist monk Brother Vahindra (civil name Karl Tõnisson, also known as Karlis Tennissons). Born in 1873 near Põltsamaa (Estonia), the XIII Dalai Lama designated him as the first Buddhist Archbishop of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Brother Vahindra was a colourful figure who became the subject of Estonian folklore. He left Estonia in the 1930s and died a saint in 1962 in Burma.

In addition to Buddhist congregations a number of people whose faith is based on Hindu religious traditions also meet: the Krishna Consciousness Congregation at Tallinn (founded in 1991; belongs to an international organisation International Society for Krishna Consciousness) and the Sathya Sai Baba Alliance (1995). In Estonia there is also a Maharishi Association of the Vedic Sciences which propagates Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s philosophy of transcendental meditation.

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